On January 19, Dr. Jennifer Russell and Premier Blaine Higgs announced that New Brunswick would be moving Zones 1, 2, and 3 into the Red phase at midnight. This comes in addition to Zone 4, the Edmunston region, moving to Red at midnight on January 17.
On January 19, the province announced 31 new cases, raising the total number of active cases to 316. As well, the province announced another COVID-related death of a resident at Tucker Hall at the Parkland Saint John retirement campus.
“We are in the Orange phase for about two weeks now, and the number of cases in these zones is not decreasing rapidly enough,” Premier Higgs explained. “We cannot take the risk of potentially overwhelming our hospitals.”
Dr. Russell credited the rapid spread to large holiday gatherings, as well as the persistence of some to refuse to wear their mask or adhere to social distancing guidelines.
“Subsequent to the Orange phase alert levels, we have still continued to see transmission in workplace settings and in schools where people have not been wearing masks, or where they have gone to places with symptoms,” Dr. Russell said, urging residents to get tested, even for mild symptoms.
Under government guidelines, the Red phase occurs when “COVID-19 is no longer controlled in the province,” which can be seen through the record-breaking case numbers of the last few weeks.
“We have never had so many cases,” said Premier Higgs, warning that the province may have to return to a full lockdown if the situation does not improve. “We may have to introduce additional measures beyond the Red level to gain control.”
This phase requires single household bubbles, restaurants only being open for takeout and delivery, and gyms, hairdressers, and entertainment centres will be closed. Premier Higgs addressed the province’s small businesses, reminding them of the availability of non-repayable grants.
Schools in the province will remain open under Red phase restrictions, as recommended by Public Health.
“If a positive case of COVID-19 is confirmed at a school in the Red level, the school will be closed for a minimum of three days to allow for contact tracing,” said Premier Higgs. “I know we are asking a lot of our teachers and school staff, and I want to thank you for stepping up.”
Premier Higgs explained the severity of moving to the Red phase, indicating that this was a major move for the province that must be respected and adhered to.
“This is not business as usual, this is not COVID as usual. This is a turning point for our province,” he said, urging residents to understand the magnitude of this move. “We can do this.”
Dr. Russell praised the many residents who have been properly adhering to guidelines, and asked everyone to come together to minimize the spread.
“We have come so far, and we still have some distance to go,” explained Dr. Russell, highlighting the need to combat the virus together. “We need to be vigilant, we need to be cautious, and we need to be kind.”